LEWISTON – Jeff Schumacher talks fast and walks even faster.

The new general manager of the Colisee didn’t even unpack the boxes stacked in his office before he scored his first big coup – signing the alternative rock band Weezer to a July 12 concert.

That was his second day on the job. By the second week, he had completely redesigned the set-up for the food concessions. This week he nailed down a new trade show and has three dates on hold for upcoming concerts.

“I have hundreds of ideas,” said Schumacher as he took a visitor around the 47-year-old arena. Among them: lighting the menu board and affixing photos for each item; landscaping the entrance to make it more welcoming; stocking the bar with a full range of liquor; extending VIP privileges to season ticket holders.

Schumacher has three years and two months to make it all happen.

That’s the length of the contract the city signed with Schumacher’s employer, Global Spectrum, to launch the Colisee into profitability. Since taking over the aging facility two years ago, the city has put $6 million in taxpayers’ dollars into the former Central Maine Civic Center. It’s landed the Maineiacs, a hockey franchise in the Quebec Major Junior League, and upgraded the building and parking lot.

Now it’s time to let the pros handle it.

“Where (the city) took this from to today is great,” said Schumacher. “It gives me the momentum.”

Global Spectrum is a privately held events coordinator corporation with clients around the world. Although the Colisee’s 3,500-seat capacity makes it the smallest arena Global Spectrum manages, it gives the company a Maine venue it can use when signing acts to New England tours.

And there’s money to be made. Aside from the annual contract fees – expected to be in the $55,000 to $60,000 range (the actual numbers are confidential) – Global Spectrum has an incentive clause that translates into significantly more money if it exceeds expectations.

But there’s personal motivation for Schumacher as well.

He’s spent nine years in the entertainment industry, working toward that g.m. title. His last post with Global Spectrum was as assistant general manager in the Dodge Arena in Hidalgo, Texas, where acrimony among the city, Global Spectrum and a competitor resulted in allegations of mismanagement and a lawsuit.

Schumacher takes a philosophical view of the fracas. Terms of the suit’s settlement preclude him from discussing any details, but he says the experience has made him a better manager.

“I wanted to get there (the general manager’s office), but I wanted to be good when I got there,” he said. “It was a trial by fire, but I learned a lot.”

A numbers game

The Colisee is a bit of an odd duck in the Global Spectrum portfolio. Among the dozens of arenas and convention centers the company manages, few are as old as the Colisee; none as small. A subsidiary of sports-and-entertainment giant Comcast-Spectacor, Global Spectrum is only 5 years old.

But in that time, it has grown from managing seven facilities in 2000 to 46 today, representing more than 400,000 arena and stadium seats and a million square feet in exhibition space. In addition to providing day-to-day management for its clients, the company also has subsidiaries that handle marketing, ticketing, food and beverage concessions and security.

“They’re obviously a very huge player in this business,” said R.V. Baugus, editor of Facilities Manager magazine, which is published by the International Association of Assembly Managers. “They’re recognized and respected worldwide.”

Some of Global Spectrum’s bigger clients include the 63,000-seat Cardinal Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.; the 19,500-seat Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo., and the 180,000-square-foot Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, Va. The next smallest arena after the Colisee is twice its size at 7,200 seats.

They are adept at managing facilities, regardless of size or type, said Baugus. “They do what they’re there to do, which is primarily keep activity going in the building.”

In the events-coordinating world, it’s not ticket sales that provide profits, but all the ancillary spending, such as parking fees, concessions sales and bar tabs. To turn a profit, an arena needs bookings. And package deals help lure those events.

Until Global Spectrum signed on to manage the Colisee in February, it had no venues in Maine.

“One of the things that drew us was having similar facilities in the New England area,” said John Page, chief operating officer for Global Spectrum, as he listed smaller arenas at universities in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Colisee gives it a Maine arena to leverage more shows.

“Now we can say to a promoter ‘Here are four venues we can deliver,'” said Page.

That should appeal to promoters of professional wrestling, rodeos, family ice shows, magic acts, as well as concerts, all of which Schumacher is pursuing.

He’s confident Global Spectrum will be able to meet the benchmarks laid out in the contract: 10 new events within the first eight months and eight to 10 bookings for the Colisee’s VIP lounge.

“I can feel confident that as an employee of Global Spectrum, we’ll easily pay for our services,” said Schumacher. “Two good bookings will likely do it.”

Public/private promotions

Dick Metivier sure hopes Schumacher is right. As the city’s financial director, Metivier was one of the people who helped craft the contract with Global Spectrum.

At stake is more than just a $6 million public investment in the Colisee. The city is hoping the success of the Colisee will give Lewiston an economic kick – both in terms of spinoff revenue and enhanced image.

“That’s the city’s interest – to attract people here,” said Metivier.

It’s a theme echoed by Norm Rousseau, city councilor and chairman of the private, for-profit corporation formed to oversee the Colisee’s operation. The corporation – LUCCE (pronounced “lucky”) – is the Lewiston Urban Civic Center Enterprise LLC.

“I think the people of L-A deserve a place to see entertainment without having to drive to Portland or Augusta,” said Rousseau. “Having people come to our community makes it a destination. I hope this will bring that other investment. People will make a day of it – they’ll go to a restaurant or a shop before a hockey game or a show.”

Some of those anticipated dollars will flow to the Colisee. Under the terms of the contract, arena revenues will first be used to meet operating costs, which have averaged about $1.8 million a year, said Metivier. If revenues exceed that by up to $250,000, Global Spectrum keeps 10 percent of that surplus. If additional revenues fall between $250,000 and $500,000, Global Spectrum keeps 20 percent. And if the revenues exceed $500,000, Global Spectrum gets 25 percent of the excess.

Remaining revenue goes to pay the Colisee’s debt service, which is about $475,000 per year.

More specific details about the contract are unavailable. Metivier said Global Spectrum asked that the deal be kept confidential because it was giving Lewiston a break in some of the arrangements. Since LUCCE is a private company, its financial information is not public. LUCCE leases the Colisee from the Community Facility Group, a quasi-public body that actually owns the assets of the Colisee, including the building and land.

Metivier did say the LUCCE board unanimously voted to hire Global Spectrum to manage the Colisee, a recognition that if the city really wanted to see the facility succeed, it needed to bring in experts.

“In a nutshell, we give them connections and expertise,” said Schumacher.

It’s who you know …

He’s already used both. When Schumacher saw the original set-up of the Colisee’s food concession he was aghast. The layout called for people to line up cafeteria style to get their food. That meant the line moved only as fast as the person at the front of it.

He summoned John LaChance, Global Spectrum’s top food and beverage expert. LaChance helped Schumacher devise a solution that replaces cafeteria-style service with fast-food style. The food concession now moves much faster, serves more people and should, ultimately, bring in more cash.

“If you speed things up, it’ll lead to more sales, plain and simple,” said Schumacher.

He also used his contacts within the promotions industry to land Weezer, capitalizing on an existing relationship he has with Clear Channel Entertainment, one of the biggest concert promoters in the country.

Weekly conference calls with managers from other Global Spectrum venues allow for collaboration and coordination of events. Schumacher can pick the brains of other Global Spectrum experts in their marketing and ticketing subsidiaries as well. It’s a setup that gives the Colisee access to all of Global Spectrum’s resources through one employee.

A determined employee at that. Schumacher helped open the Dodge Arena in October 2003, then helped move it to No. 3 in ticket sales for small arenas behind the Los Angeles and New York markets. He won’t talk about the troubles there, citing legal constraints.

But news stories describe a situation between the city of Hidalgo, which owns the arena, and International Coliseums Co., the firm hired to oversee it. ICC subcontracted with Global Spectrum to provide the day-to-day management of the 6,800-seat arena, also home to a minor league hockey team.

Last fall, allegations surfaced accusing Global Spectrum of poor customer service and mishandling of accounts, among other charges. Global Spectrum in turn accused the city and ICC of breach of contract and filed suit. ICC tried to terminate its contract with Global Spectrum this spring and bring in GE Compass, its own management company.

When the dust settled in late May, ICC and Global Spectrum decided to go their separate ways, dissolving their joint venture at Hidalgo.

Page, Global Spectrum’s chief, doesn’t anticipate any such trouble in Lewiston. Global Spectrum will answer directly to LUCCE. The market is already established and having an anchor tenant by way of the Maineiacs is a big boost. Page says he has complete confidence in Schumacher. And smaller venues are becoming more and more popular with performing artists.

“With the technology behind the light shows and the video streaming, it makes a show larger than life,” said Page. Smaller venues preserve that feeling of intimacy with the artist, but allow the theatrics to be as grand as bigger concert halls.

“Plus all the seats are good,” he said.

Schumacher concurs. All the groundwork for the Colisee’s success has been laid. Now it’s up to him.

“It’s all out there,” he said. “I just have to grab it.”

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